Thursday, July 28, 2011

Long Pane of Glass

Abe has been in a camp this week with mostly new kids. Our social, outgoing son makes friends everywhere he goes, at least until this week. I don't know the full scoop on what these other kids were like, but here's what happened when I went to pick him up today.

I arrived about ten minutes early for pick-up and stood outside the door like I've done every day this week, watching through the glass the cuteness inside. The teachers usually have the kids singing songs with lots of motions right before the parents get there.

Today though, the kids were just sitting in a mass on the floor holding their lunchboxes. Well, this is what they were supposed to be doing. One huge blond kid was whacking another blond kid in the head with his lunchbox. The smaller kid getting whacked in the head didn't seem to mind too much (maybe because he'd been whacked in the head so many times that he wasn't really noticing anymore?). I didn't see Abe. I just saw these two boys using their lunchboxes as weapons.

Abe then came into the picture, holding his lunchbox and then sitting down near these boys. And wouldn't you know it, not only did my son get whacked with a lunchbox, he then was tackled by the evil whacking kid. The smaller boy then jumped on top of the pile, which my son was on the bottom of.

This was a soundproof door, so I ouldn't hear anything. But I' watched with growing alarm, wondering when the teachers were going to notice, wondering what Abe was going to do, wondering if I should go in the room. We very much want Abe to be independent, so I didn't want to be the helicopter-parent who comes running in to rescue her child. We try to teach him how to solve his own problems with other kids.

Well, eventually a teacher turned around and pulled the boys off Abe. At this point, our son ran several feet away to get away from these boys, turned and sdt down (still holding his lunchbox) and faced my direction. I could then see his face. He was not just crying; he was squalling. Again, I didn't go in. One of the teachers brought him over to her desk and sats him in a chair and I saw her pulling out a first-aid kit. Abe was still sobbing, and I couldn't take it anymore. I grabbed the doorknob to go in, but the door was locked.

Abe spotted me looking in the window and the look on his face made me want to rip down the door, Incredible Hulk-style. We were separated by a wall of glass, and was killing me. I felt that deep pain in my chest, dying to get inside to pick up my boy and comfort him.

Finally, finally, finally, they opened the doors, and I rushed in. He walked to me with first a frown, then a smile, then another frown on his face still wet with tears. I picked him up, and he whimpered while laying on my shoulder. He never let go of his lunchbox.

He showed me his band-aid on his knee. When the big boy tackled him, it knocked a scab off, one he'd earned from the new bike-riding adventures going on at home. The teacher apologized and expressed frustration about the aggressive boy. She said he'd been like that all day, really all week.

I just sighed and thought again about how mothering means your heart breaking a little bit every day. That moment when my son was wailing and looking my direction, and I was stuck behind a locked door? Excruciating.

This weekend my dad and grandmother are coming out here to stay with Abe while we're out of the country. I trust them with every inch of my being, but even this trust doesn't erase the pain and worry that enters the picture when I'm away from my son. I want to always be the one who comforts him when he's hurt.

My son, these next few days, I'm probably going to smother you. I'm going to lay next to you in your tiny bed and hold you tight. I'm going to give you special things you normally don't get, like squeezable packaged food products in your lunchbox and cereal bars for breakfast. I'm going to ask for extra kisses. I'm going to pick you up more often just so I can smell your head. You might wonder why I keep staring at you, why I keep touching your nose with my nose, why I run my fingers along your hairline and then kiss your forehead.

It's because we're about to have a lot more than a locked door and pane of glass separating us. It's because your mom and dad are going to meet your sister and bring her to you. It's because I'm overwhelmed by the depth of my love for you, a love that breaks my heart just a little bit every day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

One Last Raffle For the Road

As you may already know, Ted is an actor. Once upon a time, he had a recurring role that mostly consisted of him mumbling every so often while walking a couple paces behind Sally Struthers, his wife on the show. It's not a role he's particularly proud of, but like any actor, he was grateful for the steady work. After we got married, it was always nice when I'd hear him say, "Gilmore Girls called again."

Interesting factoid: with our first adoption, we had to get a coworker to write a letter of reference for us. I wasn't working at the time, so that left Ted. As a character-actor who rarely worked for longer than a few days at a time on one set, finding this coworker was a challenge. So. We called up Sally to see if she could do it. She did, with the caveat that we promised that she'd get to be Abe's "fairy godmother" once he got home. She and Ted are also from the same hometown in Oregon, and my father-in-law was her teacher in high school. She is a lovely and hilarious person.

Because tickets are, ahem, outrageously expensive right now and because Ted is taking a side-trip up to the north of Ethiopia where Beti is from, we decided to hawk some of Ted's old yearly cast gifts to help lift some of the financial burden of this trip.

We have honestly been "blown away" by the support our friends, family, and cyber-friends have offered us on this road to our daughter so far. Another amazing factoid: the raffle of Autumn's doll several months ago plus the epic yard sale raised enough to pay for all expenses to Addis and back for court. Incredible. That was you, you did that, and we are grateful.

Are you or do you know a Gilmore Girls fan (and come on, everyone does)? These items are not the sort of thing you can find on ebay; each year, cast and crew were given these items as gifts by the writers and producers of the show (Dan Palladino and Amy Sherman-Palladino). The yearly gifts were as unique as the show itself. Just so you know what we're offering here :)

For every $10, your name will be entered once into the drawing to win all three items. Click on the "donate" icon to the right to put your name in the hat.

Item #1

The Luke's Diner plaid flannel shirt.

Back of the Luke's Diner shirt.

Item #2

The Gilmore Girls bowling team shirt

Back of the bowling shirt

Item #3

The Gilmore Girls coffee mug. This is one of those solid, heavy mugs you find in diners, like Luke's.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Two Little Whos

2 little whos
(he and she)
under are this
wonderful tree

smiling stand
(all realms of where
and when beyond)
now and here

(far from a grown
-up i&you-
ful world of known)
who and who

(2 little ams
and over them this
aflame with dreams
incredible is)

-- e. e. cummings

Yesterday morning, we found out that we had embassy clearance. Beti is coming to stand under our tree. The beginning of August. She is coming home. This morning, I hung Meazi's picture up in our house.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sidewalk Anger

"So you expect me to make my son who just learned to ride a bike ride in the street because you think it's okay to park this thing in the middle of the sidewalk? You expect my friend who is pushing her sleeping infant in a stroller to walk in the street because you can't be bothered to use a wheelbarrow and a shovel to do your work?"

None of the workers looked up from their work as I yelled their direction. The home-owner was standing in the driveway talking to someone, maybe the idiot contractor who lets his workers park their trailers in the sidewalk, completely blocking the way for pedestrians and small (tiny!) children on bicycles. Because I thought maybe they hadn't heard me, I yelled it louder as I walked slowly past.

"It seems you'd rather a tiny child ride his bike in the street than carry your work stuff 12 feet!"

After guarding my tiny bike rider as he went around the construction trailer blocking our way and into the street, we got to the end of the block and crossed. My friend I was walking with said, "Let's stop just a second." I asked Abe to slow down and stop. With deeply furrowed eyebrows, I turned and looked at her after making sure Abe had stopped fully and not careening gleefully into traffic.

She said, "I need to give you a hug." She stepped forward and hugged me. I sighed. I said, "Should I go back and tell the homeowner to her face?...I'm going back..." I took one step and then turned back around, saying, "Nah, it would only make me more mad."

As we continued down the street, I realized that I have a considerable amount of pent-up anger. Lately, it has felt like the workings of this world are orchestrated only to put my children in imminent danger, from bureaucrats who won't give one child a visa to gardeners who park their shit in the middle of the sidewalk, forcing the little one to ride his bike in the street. You know, the place where cars go speeding by. That street. The one where people get run over.

I've been living with a knot in my belly, burdened by sad news at every turn, not just about our lack of embassy clearance but about drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, about the light of hope suddenly going dark for a close friend, about reduced or completely cut funding for the seniors at my job, about one of my seniors who has had fifteen children in his lifetime but lost eight, and about the creeping darkness that human beings are capable of.

So I go for a long walk on a chilly summer day with a friend and end up yelling at the one thing I have some control over: people who force my son to ride his bike in the street. Later, as we're almost to our house, I discover ahead of us a gardening truck blocking the sidewalk. I wonder if my friend was cringing as she saw the look on my face. This time, the worker (probably the home-owner) was right close to the truck so I was able to look him in the eye and tell him how unacceptable this is, that maybe he's not aware that his laziness is forcing small children into harm's way. He apologizes. Abe, squeezing by the truck, gets scratched by stray limbs and poky plants. He complains to me. I yell, "Well, that's because sometimes people don't realize that sidewalks are for walking, not parking!" Or something like that. I don't remember. I think I needed another hug.

My children in harm's way. One so far away that I can't even wrap my mind around what to do for her.

One of her best friends, the boy she traveled with from Gondar to Addis, is going home to Washington next week. His mom and I have become friends and talk or text every other day or so. They will only be a few hours away from each other. We had hopes of the two of them actually flying from Addis to the Pacific Northwest together too. But it's not happening. I suddenly got overwhelmed with sadness this afternoon thinking about how B will feel when her friend leaves. I stood at my kitchen sink scrubbing the dinner dishes while country music blared, crying (I listen to country music only during two instances: when I'm sad and when I'm driving in Los Angeles-- I have no idea the reason for this compulsion).

Then the thought occurred to me that maybe seeing her friend leave will give her hope that we will eventually be coming for her too.

I don't know how to end this post. I've lost the will/inspiration to write anything cohesive. From now on, I know that I can quote Municipal Code, title 16 Parking Violations to offenders before calling the parking police if they don't bust their ass to move their vehicles out of my child's way.

And if you want to do something to help the suffering in East Africa, go here and donate something so some children can have access to Plumpy-nut. I met a charming and precocious little boy in New York earlier this month whose life was saved thanks to this wonder-food.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Two Wheels plus Pedals

This is the new thing in our life.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Yesterday I started at the top of the house and made my way down. The boys were gone, so it was easy to do that quarterly purge of Abe's room of clothes he's too big for and toys he never plays with. A neighbor with an 18-month old boy came over and took about half of the stuff.

I cleaned everything I saw, including corners sometimes overlooked. I moved things around, cleared closet space, did laundry. I pulled out all the boxes and bags of clothes we have for our daughter. I sorted them into piles: things she can wear now and things she can grow into. I made piles of shirts, shorts, skirts, jeans, and shoes. I hung the dresses up. Oh, the beautiful dresses. I hope she likes dresses. I went through some of the books and toys we may take to Ethiopia for her.

This nesting stuff is tricky. I remember doing the same thing after our referral for our first and then having the rug pulled out from under me a week later with bad news. I put all the baby things into an empty room and shut the door for two months.

So I can't help feeling a little superstitious about nesting for our second.
We're hoping for some good news later this week. It's been a daily change in status for our embassy clearance, but the latest is that once one document with one name moved from the wrong column into the correct column gets delivered to Addis (happening today we hope) and submitted to the embassy, we might maybe hopefully God-willing perhaps get clearance to travel.

When we get the green-light to buy some plane tickets, thanks to all that nesting yesterday, I'll go into the attic and pull out the purple "now" bin of things for our daughter. I think it's all ready.

Maybe perhaps perchance hopefully and God-willing.

Friday, July 15, 2011


In the class I teach on Wednesdays, the question was about how many children the seniors had. The next question was about how many grandchildren. A Somali elder told me that he had five grandchildren. Three live here in our city. The other two...he paused a couple of seconds, folded his hands and put them next to his face like he was going to sleep, then said, " Somalia." In Somalia, they died. He looked down. I cleared my throat.

"I'm so sorry."

He nodded while staring at the table.

And now, this continues.

Monday, July 11, 2011

All is Grace

In an email from a close friend today, "...Have you ever thought that life is just hard? I am thinking that this week..."

Yes, I am thinking this too.

This world is broken. The people in it are broken. The systems they created are broken and the damage goes on and on and on.

A compassionate friend in Los Angeles posted this on fb yesterday, and I keep coming back to it. At one point yesterday, I was staring into our backyard, crying about the brokenness of this world, the words in this clip filling me.

In the dark valley, this is somehow still true.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Big Apple 2011

A quiet few hours at home by myself. Who knew? A friend invited Abe this morning to go with them to the zoo. I asked if he wanted to go. Yes. "I'll miss you, Mom, but I don't want you to go. I will miss you though." Then we snuggled more, determined not to get out of bed until the sun was sufficiently high enough in the sky to warrant the day a lazy one.

The need for some quiet hours is great. It's been a busy couple of weeks. Ted was working in New York, with his shoot dates getting changed left and right. Finally, he told them that they either fly him home or fly us out there. So a week ago yesterday, Abe and I got a free trip to New York City, one of my favorite places.

It was really hot. We did a lot of this.

I should have written my daily post about the city like I did in 2009 when we were there for a month, but alas, our ibook was being repaired, and our only internet access involved sharing Ted's iphone. So. Some highlights.

1. Cranky, hot, sticky, irritable thanks to traveling from The Strand bookstore up to Central Park with a boy who was bouncing with excitement at getting to be with three other little boys, all on a city bus. A deflating phone conversation with our caseworker while walking through the park. Arriving to our meet-up location and telling this lady how pissy and deflated I felt about our daughter not being with us yet. But then: a dad appeared, handed me a paper cup of white wine from a bag and took my son and his son rock climbing, and suddenly I felt lifted again.

We met the pied piper, and he took my son rock climbing in the park.

2. My son and I climbed atop a rock and made a pretend campfire with roasted marshmallows while a group to the south of us did yoga. A man with a small dog walked by, and I asked him how to get to the Alice in Wonderland statue. He climbed up the rock, sat down right next to me, pulled out his phone while letting Abe pet his dog, and showed me where we were and how to get to Alice. We chatted a while. He was lovely, as most New Yorkers are. This is why I love this city. Native New Yorkers are some of the best people in this country. Don't believe what you hear about them being rude; they're just in a hurry. Ask them for help, and they'll do it. This post by one of the folks I got to meet earlier that day explains what I mean.

Summertime downpours make everyone slow down. Or really speed up.

3. I had to get re-fingerprinted, so early one morning while Ted was working, Abe and I took a cab down to the CIS support center, and more of these incredibly helpful New Yorkers got me in and out of this appointment in ten minutes. Then we took the subway down to the Staten Island Ferry to look at the Statue of Liberty. A Jewish tour guide and board member of his synagogue chatted with me the whole way back about why he's nonobservant yet so committed to preserving his heritage in this city. We also talked about the wonder of Voo-doo donuts while Abe snoozed on my lap.

4. We got to watch Abe fall in love for the first time. She is ten, has long curly hair that she pulls up into a top-knot most of the time, and eyelashes so thick it looks like she's wearing mascara. She's lovely, sweet, kind and gentle (except when her big brother is tackling her), and has a slight Australian accent picked up from her parents, old friends of Ted's from his years in the city.

We walked through the park with her on Sunday afternoon after having lunch with her family. The next day, we climbed onto the roof of her building with the other party guests to watch the fireworks over the Hudson River. The next morning, Abe opened his eyes and said, "Mom? Do you think we might run into her today?" The following day, he was more direct: "Can we please go see her today?" We did. They jumped on a balcony trampoline, and her big brother gave Abe his Yankees cap, showing him how to wear it backwards while making the "V for victory" sign. On our way back to the apartment, Abe laid down on the sidewalk outside of Penn Station, thumb in his mouth, tired and lovesick, and I gave up on trying to keep him clean in this city.

Hat backwards, sunglasses on, lesson in hailing a cab.

5. I was sitting on the 14th Street subway platform waiting for the train. I notice what I think is a tiny bird landing softly on my hand and jumping onto my knee. It wasn't a bird. It was a cockroach. I jumped up, freaking out, and a nice Greek man squished it. His nice Greek wife gave me hand sanitizer, and I couldn't stop shuddering for the next hour or so. Cockroaches on the subway are a rite of passage for New Yorkers, I hear. I was jumpy the rest of the trip.

6. My college roommate lives in Brooklyn, and I love being able to see her when we're there. We went over ten years without any contact, but now we've seen each other twice in the last year and a half. She showed Abe where to look for rats on the subway tracks. Her husband took us to his office at the google headquarters, and we played for a few hours with leggos and huge exercise balls and massage chairs and fusball tables, and pool tables and wii games. She calls it "preschool for grown-ups." Absolutely. They also have delicious snacks and stock Stumptown coffee in the espresso machines.

Google rocks.

7. Our last full day in town, Ted was working so it was me and Abe chasing public fountains and air conditioning. Word to the wise: if you're ever in the city by yourself with a four-year-old in 90 degree heat, take the time to take frequent rests or else you might find yourself crouched down on the sidewalk fussing at your kid as he sits in a time-out while leaning against the Chrysler Building as hundreds of people rush past you.

The children's room at the New York Central Library is a nice place to cool off after said meltdown in midtown.

8. At the end of our first full day of Mom and Abe time, we needed food so stopped by the Five Guys Burgers right down the street from our place. A big guy in line ahead of us let me go first because he said he always lets beautiful women go ahead of him, and I felt verklempt and happy because seriously: I was sweaty and sticky and grouchy and needed that.

9. My favorite thing about this short trip was our nightly ritual. We'd come in at the end of the day, heads and hearts full of the wonder of this amazing city. We'd be sweaty and gross. Shower Abe off and watch the brown water run down the drain. Shower ourselves off and open a bottle of cold white wine. While Abe watched Ratatouille every night, we sat outside on the huge terrace of the place we were staying (which belonged to some old friends of Ted's who are only there part-time).

Recommended New York City activity: have a glass of wine and climb onto the roof. This was our terrace table, chairs, wine, lantern.

This was my first time staying in a legitimate "penthouse," and I felt fancy. There was something so wonderful about the feeling of being clean at the end of a sweaty day, a glass of chilled wine in my hand, letting my hair dry in the warm night air, the hum of a thousand air conditioners around us (just not at our place), staring at the lit windows of other apartments and wondering what those people were doing, listening to Ted practice his Irish accent for his job, thankful for this trip, this free summer vacation to one of my favorite places.

Fourth of July fireworks over Manhattan.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

She Knows.

On a sticky-humid late afternoon in Central Park (more on this last-minute trip later...), we found out thanks to a borrowed iphone from a friend that B knows who we are. She is holding the photo album I left for her in Addis.

I have no words for what I felt upon seeing this photo.